by Rich Klein
Giorgio Chinaglia, the famed soccer (or football player depending on where you live) played passed away from what is believed to be a heart attack not long ago. Now most people remember him as one of the mainstays of the late 1970's-early 1980's of the New York Cosmos. The Cosmos were the soccer equivalent of what the Miami Heat has intended to do in basketball except their results are well documented and for the most part very successful.
I not only remember Chinaglia for his soccer career but also for a couple of stories involving our hobby. The first story, and I heard this second hand, was that he was scheduled to do an autograph signing at some major mall in the New York area suburbs. The person who announced his appearance did not pronounce his name correctly (ki-nah-li-ah) but pronounced his last name as China-Galea. Needless to say for the rest of my life I can never think of him with a correctly pronounced name but as China Galea.
I also recall that I met his son without realizing at the time. In the 1980's, I used to help get names for Frank and Vivian Barning's Baseball Hobby News by setting up a "fishbowl" in which we took in ballots for the readers' favorite baseball players. Usually the player picked was someone reasonably popular but there were always surprises. I remember one collector gave me a 10 minute dissertation on why Fenton Mole (1949 Yankees) was his favorite player. You got to admit, anyone with the courage to walk through life with a name like that deserves tons of respect.
One thing I did to help the Barnings before I mailed back any ballots was to go through them and sort them into zip code order. That step made the data entry of the name that much easier. After one event, I went through the readers who had been submitting players and saw Giorgio Chinaglia with an address. I remember circling the person and asking Frank whether that could be the soccer player. I don't remember if Frank or Vivian called or wrote (remember these were pre-email days) but the next time I spoke to Frank he confirmed this was the son of Giorgio Chiinaglia. BTW, a Google check now shows the George Chinaglia (son of Giorgio) is a professional rock bassist.
It all makes me wonder whether anyone who put a name into those fishbowls when they were young may have gone on to become famous. I don't know if Frank and Vivian have any of the ballots or their old mailing lists, but it would be fun to see if any of those young sports fans who had a favorite player growing up in the mid-to-late 1980's became famous 20 to 30 years later. Even more interesting is the possibility some of these young collectors stayed the course and continue to be collectors to this day. I wonder if Georgio has any of the cards from his youth or any material from his dad's career?
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]